The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same!

I like traveling and reading journals, like the Harvard Business Review and Fast Company, to keep up with the latest research on leadership.

I peruse articles and visit new places to validate my teachings, pick up innovative ideas, and learn of the latest trends in the “science” of business success. 

Here are some interesting tidbits I recently found...

In the in-room at the Encore in Las Vegas, I found this quote by Steve Wynn, developer and hotelier extraordinaire, “Without a positive customer experience our future would be in question.  The whole place has to run at VIP standards.”  For Wynn, this translates into “perfecting the guest experience.”  

Similarly, Ron Johnson, the driving force behind Apple’s retail stores and recently appointed CEO of J.C. Penney, believes, “People come to the Apple Store for the experience - and they’re willing to pay a premium for that.  There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships and trying make peoples’ lives better.”

This reminded me of a fascinating article I read in the December issue of Harvard Business Review, entitled "The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj."  Written by Rohit Deshpande and Anjali Raina, they tell the story of the heroic acts of the Taj Mahal's employees, who risked and lost their lives serving the hotel guests during the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. As stated in the article, “This ‘extreme customer centricity’ can be attributed in part to the Taj’s unique hiring, training, and incentive systems, which create a nurturing culture where employees remain dedicated to the company under the most adverse conditions.”

K. Ramachandran, retired General Manager of Human Resources for Tata Consulting Services, noted, “The employees of Taj were influenced by direct interaction with senior executives.  The company’s management has exhibited dedication to employees consciously and continually.  Leaders provide the right amount of facts to the employees, allowing them to make company-consistent decisions on all occasions, including crisis.”

Shrihari Udupa, Adviser of Institutional Development of the ITM Group of Institutions, chimed in, “Times of crisis reveal the character of an organization.  The level of employee dedication comes from leaders living their values and reflecting them in their action.”

Likewise, in the March edition of the Harvard Business Review, Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, gave an update on their "Lean" efforts at Appliance Park, “We have torn down functional silos and replaced them with a “one team” mentality.  Designers, engineers, and assembly-line workers together determine the best way to meet their goals; they own their own metrics.  They take pride in this ownership, and the results speak for themselves.”  As a result of this effort, a 2008 redesign of a 25-year-old dishwasher line produced the following operational improvements:

  • 30% improvement in labor efficiency
  • 60% reduction in inventory 
  • 68% less time to produce
  • 80% less space required

So while much is changing around us, it’s obvious that the fundamentals of service, culture-building and system improvement still remain crucial to organizational success!